It's no secret that we have an upcoming board with a rabbit on it. Unless, of course, you did not purchase our latest sticker pack, in which case you may remain ignorant to our late lepus matter in whole. And that's okay. Ignorance is bliss, as the idioms do blithely say, but if you do wish to join the ranks of the informed please run up your credit card here. Regardless of your level of awareness, though, this tale has nothing whatsoever to do with the bunny lurking in our wings. Hell, it's not even mine to tell. It's Darren Howman's, a skateboarder originally from the UK who I only recently encountered this year through an odd email exchange that succeeded in dredging up a few memories of my own from the past (the lot of which you can sure as shit bet I'll be all too happy to interject via my patented method of footnote madness).
To set the scene: It's the early ’90s. Yes, that's right. Again. But what's interesting about this bleak time in skateboard history is that almost everyone who lived, thrived, and survived as a skater then has some kind of story to tell. This just happens to be Darren's and it makes for a random complement to the recent Brian Lotti interview in Issue 4 of Jaime Owens' Closer skateboard mag. If nothing else, it'll put you in a more bunny-ish state of mind for the screened monstrosity we'll be releasing later this month.
It would have been absurd to imagine the following encounter during the latter part of 1991. Humming the soundtrack of Brian Lotti’s Now ‘n’ Later video part while attempting to emulate his flawless lines in my local supermarket carpark was my only priority then.
Jump forward a year to when my friend Ryan and I—very much to the disapproval of our parents—quit our jobs, withdrew our savings, and caught a flight bound for Los Angeles. It was the winter of 1992–’93 and we were free from the shackles of life, if only for three months, and an exchange rate of 3USD to 1GBP, 99-cent gallons of gas, 29-cent cheeseburgers, and free soda refills were more than we’d ever bargained for. We had struck gold.
Apart from a star-struck night at Lance Mountain’s house after a random encounter at the Santa Monica curbs, the utopian California we’d imagined was short lived after only a few days. Living on a diet of cheap fast food, sleeping in our rental car, and washing in public toilets was taking a toll, not to mention being woken up and moved on night after night by police with flashlights. Plus, we’d badly assessed our budget and grave doubts about embarking on such a foolhardy trip flooded our consciousness. The reality check was one that almost had us giving up and returning home.
A week later, however, things took an upturn: The rental car has been returned and we are now the proud owners of a Primer Grey 1974 Ford Granada. We meet a guy called Eli and his friend Dan Peterka (of H-Street fame) at a spot in Redondo Beach known as "Best Curb" . During the skate, two other skaters show up, dressed impeccably era-correct in blue Blind jeans and crisp white tees. Their outfits and highly lacquered blank boards are a dead giveaway to them being part of Steve Rocco’s empire. Dan greets them with familiarity, introducing them as Guy [Mariano] and Brian [Lotti].
We nervously shake their hands. trying to hide our excitement of being in the presence of such icons.
“These guys are going to San Diego soon.” Dan tells Brian.
“Look me up, Dan’s got my number.” We are shocked by his invitation.
Building the courage to call him a week later results in us heading south to a parking lot just north of San Diego. Wearing a pair of tan Airwalk Sorry’s, Brian sits on the edge of the open trunk of his maroon Volvo station wagon . Lined up to his right are two pairs of Adidas Campus and some neatly folded Blind jeans. To his left is a small stack of blank, purple wood-stained World decks. His friend Dorian [Tucker] warms up, catching perfectly flicked 360 flips in a green pair of Puma suedes.
Another defunct spot once found in the shopping center on the corner of Aviation and PCH in Hermosa Beach, just down the street from the fancy ass house where Rocco and Rodney used to live.
The recollections of the session are vague, but watching Brian meticulously work out the minutiae of the hard flip is stained into my memory. Inviting us back to his apartment, Brian cooks a large pot of potatoes, beans, and spaghetti hoops before rolling a joint for dessert.
“Blow the smoke outside," he warns us, as his roommate is due home soon.
Ryan takes a puff, exhaling out the window.
Not having smoked weed before, I inhale too much and set my throat on fire. I cough violently—doing the complete opposite of what Brian has asked—and fill the room with smoke just as the front door clicks open.
Sal Barbier stands in the doorway dressed in a striped polo shirt and Plan B jeans. The look on his face instantly tells us that introducing ourselves isn’t wise. It clearly show his disdain for the smoke-filled lounge.
“Dude! What the fuck, Brian!” Sal heads to his room, slamming the door behind him.
In hindsight, I should’ve been embarrassed at pissing off a bonafide hero of skate culture, but at the time I was more concerned about the fire in my throat and violent coughing fit.
“I think you guys should probably take off… Later.”
Brian slinks off to his room, leaving us standing awkwardly in the lounge and stoned as hell. With no other choice, we make a break for it and hit the road, driving north up the 5 freeway at a snail's pace with our faces inches from the windscreen. Ryan pulls in at a 7-Eleven to stave off the extreme case of munchies that has now taken hold. The last recollection I have is giggling at the donut display case for what seems like hours.
Fast forward 26 years and an unearthed treasure buried deep in a garage in Australia is discovered and offered to me. Due to the small runs and fast turnover of graphics in the early ’90s it was a deck that apart from possibly one in the original artist Sean Cliver’s collection , was believed to be extinct: The Blind Brian Lotti "Caring Consumer" deck. Beat-up and in need of some restoration and only missing the ironic (and apparently hated by Brian) lucky rabbit's foot keyring it originally came with, I couldn’t pass this one up.
With some careful bogging and sanding sessions, and the help of a spray booth tech workmate (thanks Louie), the once neglected relic now hangs proudly on the study wall and is a fond reminder of that golden era we were so lucky to have in someway been a part of. —Darren Howman (IG: @daz_dot_com)
1. Apparently some of my memories remain firmly mired in the '90s muck. When Darren first mentioned the "Best Curb," I immediately confused it with an area we used to skate that was situated between a Carl's Jr. and Gemco building in the southwestern posterior end of Torrance . Darren was quick to correct me, saying, "The 'Best Curb' was a double-sided red one... Spencer Fujimoto's last trick in Love Child, back tail to front blunt transfer, and Peterka had a feeble to front feeble in an H-Street promo there, too."
2. For a spell during the early days of Big Brother, Brian frequently hung around the office and contributed a few articles. He gets deeper into this during his Closer interview conducted by Eric "Chromeball" Swisher, but Darren's mention of the Volvo reminded me of an afternoon adventure I took with Brian and Earl Parker to the Hollywood Hills, circa 1993. The purpose of the trip was to gather photographic material for a never realized article on "How To Be A Stalker," and Keanu Reeves' residence—then located directly beneath the world famous Hollywood sign—was our primary target. Once we arrived at the dead end street, Brian parked his Volvo just outside the gate to Keanu's pad, and we proceeded to skirt the fenced property up the hillside to the right. Since I was just along to provide directions, I trailed behind as Brian and Earl stealthily plunged ahead through the scrub brush to get a better angle on Keanu if and when he appeared in or around the house. Well, he never did, but the airspace above us was eventually filled with the din of a circling helicopter, so the mission was aborted as the three of us scurried back down the hill to make a clean getaway. Oh, as for the unrealized nature of the article, that's something I'd best not unpack. In fact, I probably shouldn't have mentioned any of this at all. Seriously. Next!
3. I was generally pretty good about keeping an archive of all the decks I'd done graphics for back then—EXCEPT when it came to the more simplistic rips. I tended to skate those instead, and that's exactly what I did with Brian's "Caring Consumer" model. Pretty sure I did the same thing with Tim Gavin's first Blind "Playboy" model as well. So it goes.
4. Four? But there wasn't a four! No, there wasn't, at least not in the official story, but I couldn't resist revisiting the site of Gemco and Carl's Jr. one last time. Especially after catching a snippet of Daewon Song's recent Nine Club appearance where he talked about the origins of the inside flip… or was it an inward flip? Whatever it was, it was weird and awkward for the moment, making it a rather difficult, aka hard, flip. Anyway, there was many a time in the afternoons while working in the Del Amo art department of World Industries, circa 1992, where I'd fuck off and play hooky once Daewon showed up to go skate with Rodney. Gemco/Carl's Jr. wasn't too far away from the office at the base of Hawthorne Blvd. at the Pacific Coast Highway , and it was there that they'd often end up with several other hot shit skaters of the time. And then there was me, futzing and flailing about, but it was nothing short of inspiring to be on the periphery of this hallowed mix. Every once in a while my determination would pay off, though, and it was during one of these Gemco larks that I landed my first inside flip on flat. Surely you could care less, skaters do these in their sleep switch down crazy amounts of stairs and gaps now, but the fact I happened to be an errant ember fizzling out off to the sidelines of what was ground zero for a lot of the progression in skateboarding then, well, that still means the world to me, rinky-dink inside flip on flat included. Plus, this is my online urinal, not yours, so fuck off.
5. Yes, this would be the very same Carl's Jr. that "inspired" a certain Plan B graphic, as well as the infamous location of Rod's glassy-waxed darkskid pad [see Exhibit A and Exhibit B].